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Senate Chamber Reporters Stool #1999-1423Senate Chamber, North Wing, Main Floor

Blackwood bench stool with re-upholstered red leather sprung padded top; plain apron with raised circles above legs; block capped square section tapering legs on later added slides.

History

The reporters stool is still located in the Senate Chamber where it was used by Hansard Reporters between 1927 and 1988. This stool was designed in 1926 by the Federal Capital Commission Architects Department, led by principal architect John Smith Murdoch, specifically for the Provisional Parliament House. Murdoch’s design for this reporter’s stool and the other Chamber furniture was inspired by the Westminster system of Parliament and the green and red colours of the two Chambers reflect the colour scheme of the lower and upper houses in Britain. This reporter’s stool and the majority of the ceremonial furniture in both Chambers were built by Beard Watson & Co Ltd. The stool is upholstered with leather supplied by Howe Bros of Preston, Victoria.

This stool was used by Hansard Reporters in the Senate Chamber when Parliament was in session. The term ‘Hansard’ refers to the transcripts of the speeches given in the Commonwealth Parliament and comes from Thomas Hansard, a publisher who printed the reports of the proceedings in the British House of Commons in the early 19th Century. As it was the official account of proceedings it was important to record all that was said when Parliament was in session and to ensure that the transcripts were factual and complete.

A team of nine Parliamentary Reporters was assigned to the Senate Chamber when it was in session. Each reporter had a five or ten minute shift recording the proceedings in the Chamber. During their shift, the reporter would sit on this stool at the end of the large table (1999-1431) in the centre of the room. They would record everything that was said in shorthand (an abbreviated writing method), using paper and pen. When their turn was nearly over the next reporter would enter the Chamber and slide next to them on the stool. Once there was an appropriate break in the proceedings or in the speech being delivered, the new reporter would say ‘okay’ or tap the table and the other reporter would leave the Chamber. This stool was used in order to facilitate quick changeovers, as it was imperative that the reporters recorded everything that was said. Bernie Harris, a Hansard reporter at the Provisional Parliament House from April 2nd 1964 (and Chief Hansard Reporter from 1990 to 2002), remembers the stool being knocked over three times during this changeover. The reporter then had to stand, still writing, until an attendant came and up righted the stool (Harris, Bernie, Interview with Freya Clawley, 2011).

Once their turn recording the proceedings was over, the Hansard reporter would return to the Hansard office, which was located in the Provisional Parliament House (initially in the front east corner of the lower floor, later on the third floor of the Senate wing), and dictate their notes to a high speed typist. This ‘proof’ would be typed onto paper with carbon copies (four copies in total for Question Time and three copies for other proceedings). The copies consisted of a white copy that was sent to the Government Printing Office, a pink copy for Senators (also referred to as ‘pinks’), a green copy for Members (also referred to as ‘greens’) and a yellow copy that was kept by Hansard staff. The reporter then took the white copy, checked all the details such as names and quotes were correct, and marked it up for the Government Printer. This was also checked by a supervisor for editorial purposes. This whole process happened in 40 minutes. At the end of the 45 minutes from commencing the turn, the reporter returned to the Chamber, and the cycle started again.

Before the white copy of the proceedings was sent to the Government Printer, the pink or green copy (depending on whether it had been recorded in the Senate or House of Representatives Chamber) needed to be checked by the Senator or Member who had delivered the speech. The appropriate copy was rolled up and inserted into a Lamsom tube container, which was then delivered via pneumatic tubes to the Chamber. The Member or Senator would then make amendments on the copy and send it back to the Parliamentary Reporting Staff office. However, if they had already left the Chamber the document would be delivered to them. The Member or Senator then placed the copy with their amendments into a box (1999-1331) in King’s Hall so it could be collected by an attendant and taken to the office. Minor amendments were accepted by the Parliamentary Reporting Staff and recorded on the white copy, but politicians were not allowed to rewrite the document. Once this process had been completed the white copy was sent off, via pneumatic tubes, to the Government Printing Office to be printed.

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Statement of values

The reporters stool is significant as evidence of the Parliamentary Reporting system both in terms of the importance of having an accurate record of proceedings and the democratic value of having this available.

The reporters stool is a significant item of furniture through its association with the Senate Chamber. The Senate has outstanding significance as a venue for the debates, petitions and votes associated with sixty-one years of Australian legislature, and recognisable by its red upholstery. This stool was used in the Senate between 1927 and 1988, associating it with significant people in Australian political history, while also reflecting the formal and adversarial nature of debate, and the role of the Senate in the parliamentary process.

The Senate Chamber reporters stool is significant as a component of the Heritage Collection, which comprises those pieces of furniture which were used in the Provisional Parliament House between 1924 and 1988. The collection has associations with the process of government, the ceremonial, administrative, promotional and recreational functions conducted within the building, and with the individuals who governed Australia between 1927 and 1988. The building is a primary example of the Inter War Stripped Classical style of architecture prominent in Canberra’s government architecture of the 1920’s to 1940’s. The characteristic expression of the building’s style is due to the design work of the Commonwealth’s first government architect, John Smith Murdoch. The Old Parliament House building has a richness of internal fabric and collections, which include the purpose designed furniture and furnishings, that convey the way in which parliamentary functions were conducted, the everyday use of the building, and the hierarchical nature of parliamentary staffing practices. This furniture is significant as it has remained within the building for which it was designed.

REFERENCE:

Harris, Bernie, Interview with Freya Clawley, 2011.

Details

Width 690mm
Height 580mm
Depth 325mm
Medium Blackwood; leather; timber; textile
Creator’s name Federal Capital Commission Architects Department
Date created 1926